Coronavirus-related layoffs, furloughs, lead to food security crisis

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Food insecurity is nothing new in the US, but the coronavirus pandemic has exasperated the problem.

Mass layoffs and furloughs have led to more Americans unsure about how they will put food on the table in the coming months. 

A pre-pandemic study by the USDA shows “37.2 million people, including 11.2 million children, did not have adequate access to nutritious food to live a healthy life.” 

Based of data from that study, Feeding America estimates the number is ” likely to grow by 17 million, including nearly seven million children.”

These disparities are drawn between strong racial and economic divides

In the US, Latino residents are two times more likely to suffer from food inequality than their white counterparts; Black residents are two-and-a-half times more likely. 

This goes hand-in-hand with food deserts, which are more common in areas with a large Latino or Black population. 

“It’s not new, even though with COVID-19 we’ve seen an increase in food insecurity overall, and it seems like people of color again are disproportionately impacted,” Angela Odoms-Young, associate professor in the department of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told Bloomberg

“Eight of the 10 counties with the highest food-insecurity rates are more than 60% Black,” according to the Feeding America report. 

Jefferson County, Mississippi, and Issaquena County, Mississippi will experience the highest rates of food insecurity this year, at 34.2% and 33.9%, respectively. This comes after Issaquena County didn’t report a single case of coronavirus until after May 1. 

Mississippi also has some of the lowest unemployment benefits in the US, at an average of $213 a week. 

There is also no sign of relief coming soon. The federal unemployment benefit of $600 a week lapsed at the end of July, and Congress has not yet signed a deal for a new stimulus package

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